Berkshire Medical Nurses Schedule Strike Amid Lengthy Contract Talks

Jun 5, 2018

About 800 unionized nurses at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, are ready to go on strike again June 18. 

A lengthy contract dispute has dragged on into a second year. The union went on strike in October, and called off another in February. The main sticking point remains staffing levels for nurses.

One of the nurses, Amber Van Bramer, said the union takes any decision to go on strike seriously.

"It's just a lot of frustration that they are willing to spend two years sitting down at a table, hearing us over and over say the same thing and not seem to understand or care that we don't have enough," Van Bramer said.

In a statement, Berkshire Medical Center spokesman Michael Leary said officials are deeply disappointed by the nurses' decision. He says the most current offer has been pulled off the table.

"The hospital’s reasoning is not punitive, but rather the result of its obligation to redirect hospital resources that could have benefited the nurses and use them instead to maintain quality hospital services during a disruptive and pointless nurses’ strike," Leary said. "The hospital regrets that the registered nurses and their union have chosen a confrontational course that results in the generous offer being withdrawn and those resources diverted to strike preparation."

When the nurses went on strike in October, temporary nurses were brought in to cover at the hospital. The unionized nurses were off the job for a total of five days. They were on strike for one day, and then were locked out for four more. That's because the replacement nurses were guaranteed a minimum amount of work days.

If a strike happens, it too would be for one day, with another lockout anticipated.

Much of the debate over staffing is over whether "charge nurses," or supervisors, should also be responsible for individual patient assignments.

Van Bramer said that as of now, no further contract negotiations are scheduled.